Urban areas create refugia for odonates in a semi-arid region


In western Texas, most wetlands are fed from precipitation runoff, making them sensitive to drought regimes, anthropogenic land-use activities in their surrounding watersheds, and the interactive effect between these two factors. We surveyed adult odonates in 133 wetlands (49 in grassland settings, 56 in cropland, and 28 in urban areas) in western Texas from 2003–2020; 33 species were recorded. Most species were widespread generalists, but urban wetlands had the highest species richness, as well as the most unique species of any of the three wetland types. Non-metric, multidimensional scaling ordination revealed that the odonate community in urban wetlands was distinctly different in composition than the odonates in non-urban wetlands. Urban wetlands were smaller in surface area than the other wetland types, but because they were fed from more consistently available urban runoff rather than seasonal precipitation, they had longer hydroperiods, particularly during a multi-year drought when wetlands in other land-cover contexts were dry. This anthropogenically enhanced water supply was associated with higher odonate richness despite presumably impaired water quality, indicating that consistent and prolonged presence of water in this semi-arid region was more important than the presence of native land cover within which the wetland existed. Compared to wetlands in the regional grassland landscape matrix, wetlands in agricultural and urban areas differed in hydroperiod, and presumably also in water quality; these effects translated to differences in the regional odonate assemblage by surrounding land-use type, with the highest richness at urban playas. Odonates in human environments may thus benefit through the creation of a more reliably available wetland habitat in an otherwise dry region.


© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. cc-by


Land use, Odonata, Playa wetland, Texas


Husband, D.M., & McIntyre, N.E.. 2021. Urban areas create refugia for odonates in a semi-arid region. Insects, 12(5). https://doi.org/10.3390/insects12050431